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Old 08-14-2005, 02:07 AM   #1
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computer related consumer poll

Okay, I have a small dilemma on my hands.

I've got some money to invest in a new computer. The computer I'm running now is a Pentium 1, 166mhz - aka a peice of trash. My monitor has been fritzy lately and it's probably on the outs as well, since both it and the actual computer are ~12 years old at this point (the monitor is actually from a Compaq Presario 486, so, its about 13 or 14).


I've got an adequate knowledge of desktop hardware that would allow me to buy the seperate components of a computer and put them together and so on. It's definitely cheaper to do this. On the other hand, if I use Ebay and/or shop around to different computer shops, and I get a peice of faulty hardware, I don't have any other contemporary technology that would allow me to troubleshoot out the peice that was broken and replace it. This means I might have considerable delay in getting a new computer that actually functions; compounded with delivery time of online ordered parts and possibly backordered computer store parts, and the time to replace those parts if necessary... this could take a long time. Ideally, I'd like to have it assembled, in my room, secured, networked, and in my room no later than 3 weeks from today.

This brings me to option two. I could go to Futureshop/bestbuy/Dell/etc and get a premade desktop pc from them. The advantages to this lie in warranty, software bundles, and time. I'm not going to be able to afford a top-of-the-line computer plus the extra RAM I want and so on as I would be able to if I bought parts. So this comes with a bit of a performance sacrifice in the event that I eventually come into enough time to do things with the computer other than schoolwork - but, in fairness, these "sacrifices" are not exactly major ones. I mean, I'm on a P166 - a steam powered vintage adding machine has comparable processing power as this computer, so literally anything would be an improvement. I would, however, have the peace of mind that everything would be in working order promptly and that it wouldn't give me any unnecessary hassle.

I'll be running things like AVG and Avast! antivirus stuff, adaware and pc-cillin or whatever... I'm not looking to spend big bucks on something like Norton Home Security when I could find comparable software online for free. If I bought parts I'd need to buy XP and some sort of word processor. The geek in me knows I could easily get a fully functional version of XP, Office Pro, and Photoshop for free and without consequence, but the fact that I still live at home and the fact that my dad would be super pissed if I did that. I'm not going to go so far as to pirate my software, because my dad would have a fit and blame any computer problems experienced through the rest of the household network on a pirated copy of Microsoft Word on my computer... because clearly, one pirated program is the penultimate security breach *eyeroll*. The money for this software is worth not having to listen to him. This all amounts to me nulifying any cost savings I gained by buying individual components, with the added bonus of having no external guaruntees whatsoever for my trouble in case all hell breaks loose and something happens that I'm unable to fix myself.

The stickiest part of this whole thing is that my dad bought an extra 100gig harddrive for a desktop pc knowing that I was in the market so I have a greater incentive to get that desktop with that in mind. What I'd really like to get is a laptop, but the issue there is that laptops are more expensive, subject to greater wear and tear, don't perform at quite the same level as desktops (again, regarding free time and playing games, etc). I'm certainly not qualified to do any laptop surgeries, as well, so it'd have to be store-bought and there'd likely be labour costs involved in getting it fixed as I don't know a single person who owns a laptop that hasn't had to take it in for weeklong repairs at least once (harddrive failure, motherboard failure, cooling fan failure causing everything else to die, etc). There's a battery life issue as well, and while laptops have improved greatly in this regard, I'm unsure if it will get me through 7 hours of class a day in case I don't get a power outlet. Also, laptop theft at the unversity is extremely high, which means I'd have to watch it like a bloody hawk all the time (no napping - shutting down and taking it to the washroom if I'm working anywhere - etc). Another complication is that I don't want to leave it in my locker at work if I have to work after school. All these things ammount to a hassle I'm not sure would be best avoided in the first place.




Through all this, I'm going to be buying a computer one way or another. Does anyone have any advice on this? If you have a strong case to make for building my own, please make it, because in my heart of hearts thats what I'd love most, but I know that circumstance dictates that it is by no means the best/most appropriate course of action at this point.

The options for voting, therefore, are:
Big-box Pre-assembled Desktop
Laptop

Can anyone sing the praises of pre-assembled though under-powered desktops?
Can anyone diffuse my worries about the ineffectiveness of laptops? Is it worth losing out on the free 100gig hd?

I'm kinda stuck. Power, or versitility?
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Old 08-14-2005, 07:55 AM   #2
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I'm a full time computer technician and I'd love you help you out. Do you have a price range? What do you need the computer for? (gaming, photo/video editing, word processing, internet, etc)

True, you could put together a decent desktop and load up the "free" software, but XP can be really tricky b/c it won't update if it's not a legit registered license and if it won't update, you're REALLY vulnerable when it comes to viruses and worm attacks.

If you don't have a specific reason for needing a laptop, I would get a pre-made desktop w/ a good warranty. Then you can throw in the extra hard drive your dad already bought, but then again, it all really depends on your price range and what you'll be using the machine for....
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Old 08-14-2005, 10:58 AM   #3
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I prefer a laptop because it's portable and a desktop isn't. You can't bring a desktop to class, and there's no getting around that. I'm never going back to a desktop except as my 2nd computer just because the convenience of having everything on hand far supercedes the price difference.

That said, you will not find a laptop on the market whose battery will last you 7 hours of use. If you buy a spare battery and have it fully charged then yes. Otherwise, it's just not realistic at all. You better hope you have an outlet or a spare battery.

Unless you do gaming, you really won't notice a laptop being sluggish or anything. I've had my Toshiba for 3 years and I've never had a single problem with it. That said, if your screen goes, there's $1000 in repairs right away.

Ask yourself whether you need a laptop or not. Do you need it in class? Do you think it would be helpful to be able to take it with you to the library? If yes, then a desktop is useless. If no, then save yourself the money and pass on the laptop.
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Old 08-14-2005, 11:12 AM   #4
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Price wise, I'm looking to spend less than $1000.

I have $5600 in the bank right now. $3500 of that is going to tuition in 4 days, $400 of that is going to books. another $1500 goes towards tuition on Jan. 9th 2006. Obviously I'm not going to find a computer for $200, but the less money I spend, the less I have to work between now and January to recoup my $$ and have that tuition paid.
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Old 08-14-2005, 01:16 PM   #5
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Then get a desktop. You can't get a new laptop for that kind of money. And you definitely can't get a used one with the sort of battery life the newer models have thanks to new processors.
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Old 08-14-2005, 02:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
Then get a desktop. You can't get a new laptop for that kind of money. And you definitely can't get a used one with the sort of battery life the newer models have thanks to new processors.

I agree. I got a used laptop from a friend for only $200 (it cost about $1500 a few years ago when it was brand new), but that's basically b/c the battery is shit and lasts about 30 minutes. For me, it was worth it b/c I really needed an LCD screen because I work on CRTs all day at work and can't stand having to continue like that doing school work all evening. I also needed something portable, but everywhere I go (even in class) I have access to an outlet so the battery really isn't an issue. In fact, I don't even use it in the computer b/c it cuts the weight in half. So for me, a $200 laptop was a steal because after I fixed the other minor problems it had, it meets all of my needs.

$1000 won't really get you a top-of-the-line laptop and the warranty you'd need because laptops tend to have more problems than desktops.

You can get a pretty sweet desktop for $1000 and then you still have your second 100GB hard drive to throw in there. If you aren't really into all of the individual hardware specs, I'd go with a package deal like a Dell.
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Old 08-14-2005, 06:07 PM   #7
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Well, I was looking at the Best Buy and Future Shop websites... they have some marginally acceptable laptops for about $800 on sale and whatnot... but, I think I'm going to go the desktop route on this one... Having actually priced these things, I'd rather not pay $900 for a laptop with a 1.5 hour battery life and inferior components, as nice as the portability is :\

Thanks for your help guys
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Old 08-15-2005, 04:57 AM   #8
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I just got a Dell desktop, I've only had it for a week..so far I love it. It has a 160 GB hard drive and 1 GB RAM, a DVD burner, and a 19" monitor. It's so new that I'm not familiar w/ everything else it has just yet. The package cost just over $1400 w/ tax and shipping.

I had an HP desktop before and I'd never get another HP
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Old 08-15-2005, 05:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by ~unforgettableFOXfire~
Well, I was looking at the Best Buy and Future Shop websites... they have some marginally acceptable laptops for about $800 on sale and whatnot... but, I think I'm going to go the desktop route on this one... Having actually priced these things, I'd rather not pay $900 for a laptop with a 1.5 hour battery life and inferior components, as nice as the portability is :\
Plus I'd recommend a 3-year warranty which can cost you up to another $300.
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Old 08-15-2005, 05:32 AM   #10
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Yes..my Dell came w/ a 3 year in home service warranty, that was the main selling point
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Old 08-15-2005, 05:52 AM   #11
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Would you consider building a new computer? One of the drawbacks to the computers from Dell, etc. are the proprietary design of their motherboards/cases. This can make upgrades challenging at times.
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